Quotulatiousness

September 23, 2014

This is what a genuinely ethical oil divestment plan for universities would look like

Filed under: Environment, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:45

Megan McArdle explains why universities are not in a particularly righteous position when they push for divesting out of fossil fuels:

I understand that universities are exploring sustainability. Just the same, they consume huge amounts of fossil fuels: To heat and cool their buildings. To power their labs and computer networks. Maintenance and landscaping. Cooking all that food. Lighting all those rooms. Every year, they put on many large events to which people fly or drive long distances. Their students travel to and from their premises multiple times a year, rarely on foot. Their faculty fly to do research or attend conferences; many of my friends in academics have much better frequent-flier status than I could ever dream of. Their admissions officers fly hither and yon to recruit students. Their teams fly or drive to games. But you get the idea. The point is that the fossil-fuel consumption of every university in the country dwarfs the impact of their investments on climate change.

[…]

If divestment activists were serious about making a difference, setting an example, and drawing the full weight of America’s moral opprobrium onto the makers and consumers of fossil fuels, they’d be pushing a University Agenda that looked more like this:

  1. Require administrators, faculty, sports teams and other student groups to travel exclusively by boat and rail, except for “last mile” journeys.
  2. Cease construction of new buildings on campus.
  3. Stop air conditioning buildings, except for laboratories and archives that require climate control. Keep the heat no higher than 60 degrees in winter.
  4. Put strict caps on power consumption by students, keeping it to enough electricity to power one computer and one study lamp. Remove power outlets from classrooms, except for one at the front for the teacher.
  5. Ban meat from campus eateries and require full-time students to be on a meal plan.
  6. Remove all parking spots from campus.
  7. Stop operating campus shuttles, except for disabled students.
  8. Divest the endowment from fossil-fuel companies, if it makes you feel better.

Why has No. 8 jumped to No. 1? Because it’s easy. Because a group of students pushing endowment divestiture can shut down a public meeting and be rewarded with the opportunity to hold a teach-in; a group of students pushing a faculty flying ban and the end of campus parking would find the powers that be considerably more unfriendly. Not to mention their fellow students. Or, for that matter, their fellow activists, few of whom are actually ready to commit to never in their lives traveling out of America’s pitiful passenger rail network.

May 31, 2014

Shock, horror! Ezra Levant’s publisher took government grants!

Filed under: Business, Cancon, Media — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:21

In the Globe and Mail, Simon Houpt looks at the rise and rise of Ezra Levant and finishes with what he clearly thinks is a “gotcha” moment:

… for a man who seems to have studied his American forebears so extensively, he has failed utterly to learn how to mimic the persuasive charms of a Bill O’Reilly or the wackadoodle authenticity of a Glenn Beck. He has a genuinely nasty streak that flares up in his attacks – on the Roma people, for example – that have landed him in hot water with the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.

He seems less interested in free speech than in listening to his own speech. Perhaps fatally, he has no visible sense of humour about himself.

In Groundswell, he has great fun mocking one of his favourite targets: Hollywood stars, whom he accuses of gross hypocrisy for promoting environmental causes while flying around in private jets. He points to Matt Damon’s anti-fracking drama Promised Land, which was backed in part by financing from the United Arab Emirates. And he mocks Josh Fox, the director of the anti-fracking documentaries Gasland and Gasland 2, for being a one-time New York-based actor.

Yet there is more than enough hypocrisy to go around: Levant is a critic of government support whose books have been published by a company that took plenty of government money until a recent change in ownership precluded the practice; a free-marketeer who works for a network that spent months last year trying to convince regulators to let it extract a monthly payment from every TV subscriber in the land.

At one point in Groundswell, Levant suggests activists are primarily driven by the salaries they receive. It’s a worldview that is so breathtakingly cynical that we’re left to wonder if Levant himself would blithely change his position for a fatter paycheque. If true, what kind of free-speech champion is that?

As far as the publisher collecting government money … most of the Canadian publishing business does that. It’s an unusual publishing company that manages to avoid suckling at that particular teat. Sun TV’s campaign for a better placement in cable TV packages certainly didn’t show the company in a good light, but the regulators have deliberately created a two-class system for cable, with the favoured channels required in each cable offering (a subsidy-by-another-name) and the disfavoured ones excluded. Sun TV could have taken the high road, but they’d have gone out of business for no purpose, and it wouldn’t have changed the system at all. (Full disclosure: I don’t watch Sun TV, although I have read a couple of Levant’s books.)

January 8, 2014

Inequality and the American elite

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:25

Victor Davis Hanson diagnoses what he calls the “Modern Psychological Disorder of Elite Liberalism”:

The result of cosmic disappointment in the ability of progressive politics to correct human disparities has given birth to the modern psychological disorder of elite liberalism, which is mostly about squaring the circle of maintaining privilege while deploring inequality. Say America is unfair ten times a day, and the BMW in the garage and the new putter are no longer sins.

Barack Obama cannot finish a sentence without lamenting unfairness; but he proves to be no Jimmy Carter in scouting out the most exclusive of golf courses, and the richest of fat cats to putt with. Elizabeth Warren talks of oppressed minorities, but then invents a pseudo-Native-American identity to get a leg up on the elite competition in order to land at Harvard. The fact is that the elite who champion the poor and the poor themselves are not the players of the 1930s; the former usually make about the same amount of money and enjoy the same privileges as those they damn, while the latter have access to appurtenances and privileges denied the royalty of old.

The wealthier and more secluded an Oprah, the most desperately she searches for evidence of bias and inequality, finally reduced to the caricature of whining about racially driven poor service over a $38,000 crocodile handbag. If most in California don’t care what people do in their bedrooms, or if gays have on average higher incomes than non-gays, or if gay marriage is now de rigeur, the search for cosmic equality continues at an even brisker pace, resulting in transgendered bathrooms in the public schools (crede mihi: the ten-year-old daughters of the Yahoo elite will not encounter transgendered fifteen-year-old boys in the female Menlo School restrooms).

It is not perverse, but logical that Obamacare architects don’t want Obamacare coverage. It is understandable that Washington young-gun liberals know exactly where DuPont Circle or Georgetown gets iffy. Modern liberalism provides the necessary mental mechanisms to ensure the enjoyment of privilege. Al Gore was the classical liberal of the age, crafting an entire green empire predicated on opposing the very values that he later embraced to become, and preserve staying, very rich.

[…]

It is past time to forge a new populist approach without the theatrics of shutting down the government or playing on the same keyboards as Pajama Boy Obamacare spivs. The liberal elite runs the culture, from universities and entertainment to government bureaucracies and the media, but it nonetheless is predicated on loudly condemning in the abstract the very creed that they embrace in the concrete.

August 21, 2013

The Guardian gets a taste of the medicine it prescribed for the tabloids

Filed under: Britain, Government, Liberty, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:25

In sp!ked, Brendan O’Neill talks about the amazing double standards of Britain’s “chattering classes”:

If there was a Nobel Prize for Double Standards, Britain’s chattering classes would win it every year. This year, following their expressions of spittle-flecked outrage over the detention of Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda by anti-terrorism police at Heathrow airport, they’d have to be given a special Lifetime Achievement Award for Double Standards.

For the newspaper editors, politicians and concerned tweeters now getting het up about the state’s interference in journalistic activity, about what they call the state’s ‘war on journalism’, are the very same people – the very same – who over the past two years cheered the state harassment of tabloid journalists; watched approvingly as tabloid journalists were arrested; turned a blind eye when tabloid journalists’ effects were rifled through by the police; said nothing about the placing of tabloid journalists on limbo-like, profession-destroying bail for months on end; said ‘Well, what do you expect?’ when material garnered by tabloid journalists through illegal methods was confiscated; applauded when tabloid journalists were imprisoned for the apparently terrible crime of listening in on the conversations of our hereditary rulers.

For these cheerleaders of the state’s two-year war on redtop journalism now to gnash their teeth over the state’s poking of its nose into the affairs of the Guardian is extraordinary. It suggests that what they lack in moral consistency they more than make up for with brass neck.

Everything that is now being done to the Guardian has already been done to the tabloid press, a hundred times over, and often at the behest of the Guardian. For all the initial depictions of Mr Miranda as ‘just Glenn Greenwald’s partner’, in fact he was ferrying encrypted information from the NSA leaker Edward Snowden on flights paid for by the Guardian. That is, he was detained and questioned over journalistic material acquired through illegal means. That’s already happened to the tabloids. Over the past two years of post-phone hacking, post-News of the World harassment of tabloid hacks by the state, 104 people have been arrested, questioned, usually put on unjustly elongated bail, and sometimes imprisoned. These include many journalists but also office secretaries and other non-journalist types, like Mr Miranda, who stand accused of handling illegally acquired material. The 104’s crimes include ‘disclosure of confidential information’ – not that dissimilar to what Greenwald and Miranda have done in terms of getting hold of and publishing Snowden’s illegally leaked confidential material. Yet while the redtop writers rot in legal limbo, Mr Miranda becomes a chattering-class cause célèbre.

[…]

But, believe it or not, the double standards run even deeper than that. For today’s outraged defenders of Greenwald, Miranda and the Guardian from a state war on journalism were the architects of the state’s far larger, far more destructive war on tabloid journalism. From the Guardian itself to Labour MP Tom Watson to various influential members of the Twitterati, many of those now shocked to find officials harassing journalists for doing allegedly dodgy things were at the forefront of demanding that officialdom harass redtop hacks for doing dodgy things. If you unleash and cheer a war on journalism by the state, you really cannot be surprised when the warmongers eventually put you and your journalism in the crosshairs, too.

May 15, 2013

Canadians’ hypocrisy on climate change

Filed under: Cancon, Environment, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

Stephen Gordon fired off a tweetstorm yesterday:

April 9, 2013

Surveillance is only good when they do it to us, not vice-versa

Filed under: Government, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:41

David Sirota on the blatant hypocrisy of Big Brother surveillance fans now objecting when they’re the targets of surveillance:

The Big Brother theory of surveillance goes something like this: pervasive snooping and monitoring shouldn’t frighten innocent people, it should only make lawbreakers nervous because they are the only ones with something to hide. Those who subscribe to this theory additionally argue that the widespread awareness of such surveillance creates a permanent preemptive deterrent to such lawbreaking ever happening in the first place.

I don’t personally agree that this logic is a convincing justification for the American Police State, and when I hear such arguments, I inevitably find myself confused by the contradiction of police-state proponents proposing to curtail freedom in order to protect it. But whether or not you subscribe to the police-state tautology, you have to admit there is more than a bit of hypocrisy at work when those who forward the Big Brother logic simultaneously insist such logic shouldn’t apply to them or the governmental agencies they oversee.

[. . .]

Yet, in now opposing the creation of an independent monitor to surveil, analyze and assess lawbreaking by police and municipal agencies after a wave of complaints about alleged crimes, Bloomberg and Kelly are crying foul. Somehow, they argue that their own Big Brother theory about surveillance supposedly stopping current crime and deterring future crime should not apply to municipal officials themselves.

This is where an Orwellian definition of “safety” comes in, for that’s at the heart of the Bloomberg/Kelly argument about oversight. Bloomberg insists that following other cities that have successfully created independent monitors “would be disastrous for public safety” in New York City. Likewise, the New York Daily News reports that “Kelly blasted the plan as a threat to public safety,” alleging that “another layer of so-called supervision or monitoring can ultimately make this city less safe.”

If this pabulum sounds familiar, that’s because you’ve been hearing this tired cliché ad nauseam since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Whether pushed by proponents of the Patriot Act, supporters of warrantless wiretapping, or backers of other laws that reduce governmental accountability, the idea is that any oversight of the state’s security apparatus undermines that apparatus’ ability to keep us safe because such oversight supposedly causes dangerous second-guessing. In “24″ terms, the theory is that oversight will make Jack Bauer overthink or hesitate during a crisis that requires split-second decisions — and hence, security will be compromised.

February 25, 2013

Western media suddenly notices problems in South Africa

Filed under: Africa, Media — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:33

In the Telegraph, Brendan O’Neill shows how the western media has managed to ignore horrific things in South Africa, but suddenly the murder of a pretty white woman has them all utterly rivetted to what’s happening in that country:

Last year, 34 black striking miners were gunned down by South African police at the Lonmin mine in Marikana. Some were shot in the back as they attempted to flee. Some were killed as they surrendered. Others were killed 300 metres from where the main massacre took place, suggesting they had been chased — that is, hunted down — by the armed servants of the ANC. Yet there was no outrage in the Western liberal press. There were no fuming leaders; very few angry columns. Amnesty International, guardian of the modern liberal conscience, issued a weak, almost uninterested statement about this act of mass murder, and then went back to throwing money and staff at the campaign to have Pussy Riot — prettier and way more fashionable than those dead miners — freed from jail in Russia.

This month, a pretty white woman, Reeva Steenkamp, was killed by her boyfriend, Oscar Pistorius, in a gated community in South Africa. And this time, right-thinking observers went crazy. The shock and outrage have been palpable. Feminists have popularised the Twitter hashtag #hernamewasReevaSteenkamp, to draw attention to the scourge of domestic violence in South Africa. Column after column tells us that the Steenkamp killing shows that the New South Africa is sick, that it’s a fear-ruled, crime-ridden, corrupt nation. This tragic shooting and the fractured court case and debate it has given rise to have cast a “lurid light” on South Africa, commentators tell us, calling into question its image as a “Rainbow Nation”. Where the massacre of 34 black workers elicited a collective shrug of the shoulder among observers over here, the killing of Steenkamp has got them tearing their hair out, demanding answers, wondering what the hell went wrong with the country they once admired (the New South Africa) and its ruling party that they once cheered (the ANC).

All of which raises a very awkward question: why is the shooting of a white woman in a domestic setting more shocking to liberal commentators than the massacre of 34 black miners at a public strike and demonstration? This isn’t a complaint about how the media elevates celebrity news over all other forms of news. I can understand why there is so much media and public interest in the Pistorius/Steenkamp case: it isn’t every day a global sports star shoots his famous, beautiful girlfriend in questionable circumstances. But what is striking is the fact that it took this incident — and not, say, the ANC’s massacre of 34 miners — to open Western liberals’ eyes to the profound problems, the moral and political decay, in modern-day South Africa.

February 17, 2013

Whinnygate is just a useful distraction from the real scandal in the NHS

Filed under: Britain, Bureaucracy, Health, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:09

The British media is doing a great job of distracting the public with the horsemeat story, and the politicians and National Health Service bureaucrats are delighted that nobody is paying attention to the real scandal:

At any given moment, there exists at least one delicate subject that all mainstream political parties would much rather not discuss. For many years the abuse of MPs’ expenses fell into this category. After this was exposed by a Telegraph investigation, everyone joined a tacit agreement to keep quiet about the criminality inside the Murdoch newspaper empire.

Now the subject which nobody wants to talk about is the National Health Service. It is just over a week since the publication of the Francis report into Stafford hospital, where some 1,200 patients died in appalling circumstances. Had any other institution been involved in a scandal on this scale, the consequences would have been momentous: sackings, arrests and prosecutions. Had it involved a private hospital, that hospital would have been closed down already, and those in charge publicly shamed and facing jail.

Astonishing to relate, nothing has happened. Politicians have made perfunctory expressions of concern, while agreeing that there must be “no scapegoats”, and that Sir David Nicholson (the senior figure responsible) must remain in his job.

Then, almost at once, the political class turned its attention to a far more lively subject: horse meat. Few “scandals” in living memory have carried less significance. And yet few stories have dominated the press quite as comprehensively since rival teams of crack reporters from The Sun and The Star pursued Blackie the Donkey across Southern Spain in 1987, in the wake of some dubious allegations of mistreatment by his Spanish owners.

Misdirection is a vital tool in the arsenal of the magician — and it can be even more valuable in the political arena. If they can fool you into watching the hand that isn’t hiding the coin, they can get away with a great trick (magicians) … or a great evil (politicians).

February 12, 2013

Rules for the masses, but not for the bureaucratic elite

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Business, Europe, Law — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:33

The European Union’s rules on gender equality appear to apply to everything in the EU except the EU’s own bureaucracy:

Part of the aggrandised myth EU institutions like to propagate about themselves is that they are pioneers in promoting tolerance, gender equality, and diversity in the workplace. Read the promotional literature and you will find effusive descriptions of liberal workplace revolutions and the achievements of Soviet-style five-year plans. Yet, like the Soviet Union, there is an embarrassing mismatch between the trumpeted idealism and the reality.

Since its creation in 1967, DG Employment (Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion at the European Commission) has nominally been responsible for fair employment conditions in the European Union. Rising levels of workplace equality in member states (for which DG Employment take an undue amount of credit) are woefully incongruous with the situation of EU civil servants. Women occupy 19 per cent of senior management positions; compare this with the often decried 35.9 per cent of women in the top levels of the UK civil service.

Yet it is figures like the UK civil service’s that prompt EU proposals on affirmative action. One set of proposals has recently been discussed in the European parliament, for example, which if passed will introduce gratuitous and complicated legislation across the continent. That bureaucracy breeds bureaucracy is unsurprising, but it is hard to take seriously calls for equality from an institution endemically opposed to the concept.

The only European agency where women in management positions outnumber men is in the Institute for Gender Equality (the administration is 95 per cent female). Incontrovertibly, out of all the agencies, this is the one with the strongest prerogative for tackling equality in its workforce. But the message is clear: shout about equality to the world and create a dummy institute to anyone holding a mirror up to the EU bureaucracy itself. So far, the commission is on its fifth ‘action programme’ to tackle inequality within its institutions, taking the same form as every one that has come before it; vague guidelines forgotten until lobby group pressure becomes too annoying.

January 24, 2013

Sun TV’s about-face on “making us all pay for it”

Filed under: Business, Cancon, Government, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:12

Andrew Coyne makes some good points about Sun TV’s hypocrisy, he could have made a stronger case for getting the CRTC entirely out of the business of deciding what Canadians can watch on TV:

When the Sun News Network first loomed on the national horizon two years ago, before it had even begun broadcasting, sections of the Canadian left reacted as they do to most things: with hysterics.

A petition was launched — from the United States, as it happens — demanding the CRTC deny Sun the licence it sought, claiming “Prime Minister Harper is trying to push American-style hate media onto our airwaves, and make us all pay for it.”

[. . .]

Well, that was then: much has happened since. Teneycke lost his job, briefly, after questions were raised about how the bogus signatures found their way onto the petition. The network has mostly avoided peddling hate, unless you count that business about the Roma. And, less than two years since its launch, Sun is back before the CRTC, asking to be put on basic cable.

Well, asking is not quite the word. The network, never shy about self-promotion, seems almost an infomercial for itself these days. Network personalities have been drafted to explain the urgent public necessity of making Sun mandatory carriage, that is of taxing everyone with cable or satellite service. Viewers are directed to a website, where they can send an email to the CRTC in support of its application.

[. . .]

But if fairness is what we’re after, there’s another way to go about it. Rather than give every channel an equal chance to stick their hands in the public’s pockets — to force viewers to pay for channels they would not pay for willingly — it is to grant that privilege to no one: to leave viewers free to decide whether or not to subscribe to each channel, on its own merits. And yes, in case anyone’s wondering, that includes the CBC. (Notwithstanding the princely $500 a pop the corporation pays me to bloviate on At Issue, I have been rash enough to argue, publicly and often, for defunding the CBC.)

For goodness sake, it is 2013. The circumstances that might once have justified such regulatory micro-managing, in the days when there were only three channels and barely room for more on the dial, are long gone. Then, a new or special-interest channel might have made the case for market failure: since it was impossible for viewers to pay for channels directly, there was a built-in bias to the biggest audience, and the programming that tailored to it.

November 2, 2012

The rise of celebrity endorsements is a sign of political immaturity

Filed under: Media, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 08:44

In sp!ked, Patrick West points out that celebrities who push political agendas or social issues are actually a sign of the failure of the political class:

This paradoxical egotism — protesting against ‘selfish’ right-wing people in order to make you appear morally superior — was mercilessly parodied in the 2004 film Team America: World Police. In it, marionettes representing the likes of Susan Sarandon, George Clooney and Matt Damon are shown as self-important dupes of Kim Jong-Il, parroting liberal-left vacuities. ‘As actors’, says Janeane Garofolo’s puppet, ‘it is our reponsibility to read the newspapers, and then say what we read on television like it’s our own opinion’. Like all good parodies, it helped to change the way people think. Sean Penn’s intervention on the matter of the Falkland Islands earlier this year generated unflattering comparisons to the movie, and I imagine Matt Damon still fears to speak on humanitarian issues, lest he be met with a collective cry of ‘Matt Day-Mon’.

Still, this hasn’t deterred the likes of Clooney and Whoopi Goldberg continuing to make known their support for the Democrats — who are liberal-left, and therefore Good People — in opposition to the Republicans, who are right-wing and by extension Bad People. Now from the pop world they have been joined by Katy Perry, who last week performed at a Las Vegas fundraiser for President Obama in the forthcoming presidential election, and by Madonna, who on Saturday declared at a concert in New Orleans: ‘I don’t care who you vote for as long as you vote for Obama.’ Having been met with jeers and booing, the Material Girl backtracked. ‘Seriously, I don’t care who you vote for as long as you take responsibility for the future of your country’, she recanted. ‘Do not take this privilege for granted. Go vote.’ Other Democrat supporters include Bruce Springsteen, Beyonce, Will.i.am and Jay-Z.

[. . .]

In terms of hollow egotism, popstars are not far removed from actors. The latter are fantasists and (literally) professional liars, pretending to be someone they aren’t, displaying emotions they don’t have. Popstars are often likewise insecure, craving attention and praise, to be told what good people they are — and consequently ensure that the world knows it.

They have been up to this sort of thing for years. Consider the self-important proclamations of John Lennon, imagining no possessions but having lots of them, Sting’s crusade to save the Brazilian rainforest and its noble savages and, of course, Bono, the humanitarian tax-avoider. The latter two featured in Band Aid, an ostentatiously big-hearted scheme that raised funds for governments in desperate need of more Mercedes-Benzes and Kalashnikovs. This is what happens when you combine paradoxical egotism and a Something Must Be Done mentality. Today, it’s the same toxic compound — intensified — that’s behind the grandstanding and aggressive ‘caring’ censoriousness you see on Twitter.

October 2, 2012

The Baby Boomers are turning into the New Victorians

Filed under: Liberty, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 13:20

As usual, Gregg Easterbrook manages to squeeze in lots of non-football items into his weekly NFL column:

The entertaining aspect of the fizzled Newt Gingrich presidential campaign was that Gingrich still blames the 1960s for everything. The 1960s were half a century ago. In the year 2012, blaming the 1960s makes about as much sense as someone during the 1960s blaming events on the 1910 appearance of Halley’s Comet.

Since Gingrich put the 1960s into play, note that during that decade the mainstream media advocated what was then called “free love,” and looked down with scorn upon those who backed traditional views of marriage and lovemaking. Yet today when people engage in free love, graying Boomers who run the MSM get all squeamish.

Here, The New York Times treats as shocking that an unmarried yoga instructor had “a penchant for women” and liked “partying and fun.” Man likes women — arrest him! The unmarried instructor faces “accusations of sexual impropriety,” which means “yoga’s enlightened façade” is tainted by “scandal.” And the scandal is what? That unmarried adults are having consensual sex. This “penchant” must be stopped — it can lead to fun.

Worse, yoga can “promote sexual arousal” by causing “emotional closeness” that leads to “increased blood flow” which makes “pelvic regions more sensitive,” resulting in “debauchery.” Who wrote this, Queen Victoria?

All news organizations, including ESPN, sometimes publish ill-thought-through articles. What’s compelling about this one is the sociological change reflected. When they were young, the Baby Boomers who now run big news organizations extolled free love and mocked the older generation’s conventional expectations about sexuality. Now that the Boomers have aged and are not getting any themselves, they evince shock that younger people are fooling around.

August 3, 2012

Chris Selley: Ideology is anathema to Harper’s Conservatives

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:38

Prime Minister Stephen Harper cast out the libertarians several years ago. He’s more recently stamped out the last of the actual conservatives. So who’s left in the Conservative Party? Harperites and devoted non-ideologues:

It is time to retire the word “ideological” from Canada’s political lexicon. It doesn’t seem to mean anything anymore. In recent weeks, Tony Clement, a Conservative cabinet minister, has chided NDP leader Thomas Mulcair for “taking an ideological approach” to oil-sands development; Prime Minister Stephen Harper has deplored the New Democrats’ “ideological aversion to trade”; various New Democrats have accused the Conservatives of being “ideological” for their plans to contract out post-office services, eliminate Canada Revenue Agency counter service, cut funding for scientific research and limit health-care benefits for refugee claimants, which Liberal critic Kevin Lamoureux also deplored as “ideological.” Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae denounced the Conservatives’ entire “wrong-headed ideological agenda” — which is apparently “hidden” in various places around Ottawa, though he and Mr. Mulcair seem to have no difficulty discerning how awful and ideological it is.

I wonder how evocative the word “ideological” is to people who aren’t political junkies. Is it so bad, so uncommon, to have — as the Oxford dictionary defines it — “a system of ideas or way of thinking” that one regards “as justifying actions, especially one that is held implicitly or adopted as a whole and maintained regardless of the course of events”?

Among political junkies, the term is sometimes — though not always (see above) — meant to imply pigheaded rigidity. For a Canadian politician, that’s very bad. Weirdly, it’s also very bad when a Canadian politician changes his mind — the dreaded “flip-flop.” But is there any politician in Ottawa anywhere near power who can usefully be described as consistently ideological? Since the Reform days, Mr. Harper and his mates have been on a public policy magical mystery tour. Now they say whatever they need to say on Friday, contradict it completely on Monday, and think nothing of it. To call them ideological is to miss an opportunity to call them shameless hypocrites.

July 13, 2012

Nice little racket some Toronto stores have set up

Filed under: Business, Cancon — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:13

Charge your customers 5 cents per bag, beat them over the head with the message that the money goes to “charity”, then pocket the profits:

Another customer, who requested anonymity, said she now boycotts Loblaws, Shoppers and PharmaPlus. When Loblaws started selling plastic bags, she said it led to poorer customer service like cashiers refusing to pack her groceries.

“A bag was a courtesy given for shopping in the store and also a way for the store to advertise by putting their logo on the side of the bag,” she said in an email.

She also detests the World Wildlife Fund, which Loblaws funds with bag sales.

Metro spokeswoman Marie-Claude Bacon said Metro buys each bag for about 2.5¢. Most retailers won’t say how much plastic bag revenue flows to charities. Even when they do give, they recoup 33¢ of every donated dollar, Al Rosen, a forensic accountant, points out.

And he adds: “Overall, there are some who are being honest about increasing their donations and there are others who are just taking advantage of plastic bag thing to find another way of making the same donations as they previously made.”

June 21, 2012

Addressing society’s hypocrisy on drugs

There’s apparently a call in Britain for the police to be given discretionary powers in certain cases where they could push civil rather than criminal penalties for drug offences. A better solution would be to fix the massive disconnect between the law and reality:

‘Ease drug penalties on the young,” a government adviser has urged. And of course, Professor Les Iversen, chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, is absolutely right. After all, if every young man who had dabbled with drugs had felt the fullest penalty of the law, then David Cameron would not be prime minister nor Barack Obama US president.

But in my view, Les Iversen doesn’t go nearly far enough. He talks of police being granted the discretion as to whether to press for civil rather than criminal penalties in certain drugs cases. This, however, is a fudge that doesn’t address the real issue. If our drugs laws are antiquated, expensive, inconsistent, socially damaging, draconian and counterproductive — and they are — then the solution is not to give the police more leeway to turn a blind eye. The solution is to change the laws.

[. . .]

What’s the thing I’m scared of most about my children and drugs? Not the drugs themselves, that’s for sure. The way we class drugs bears almost no relation to their relative degrees of harmfulness, as Professor David Nutt, the former government drugs adviser and Cambridge-educated neuropsychopharmacologist, made himself extremely unpopular by explaining. Alcohol and tobacco, Nutt infamously pointed out, are more dangerous than LSD; Ecstasy is safer than horse riding.

No, what worries me far more about my kids and drugs is the grubby illegality of that culture: the fact that whoever supplies them will, by definition, come from the criminal underworld; the fact that, there being no consumer protection or quality control, their drugs could be cut with any quantity of rubbish; the fact that they risk being imprisoned and having their futures blighted for the essentially victimless crime of seeking an altered state.

There are some authoritarian types, I know, who reading this will say: “And serve them bloody right!” It was a similar warped mentality that, at the height of Prohibition, led the US government to poison the nation’s supply of industrial alcohol (used to make moonshine) with a contaminant called Formula No 5. As Christopher Snowdon notes in his book The Art of Suppression, this resulted in as many as 10,000 needless deaths.

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